Lake Forest Elementary School Teacher Featured on CBS's Surprise Squad

By Jennifer Dunaway July 29, 2021

A teacher at Lake Forest Elementary School in Sandy Springs was recently featured on CBS46’s Surprise Squad <<--click the link to watch video.

Each year, the Sandy Springs Society, a charitable organization of women dedicated to improving the quality of life in Sandy Springs by supporting nonprofits in the community, honors a community member who has made an extraordinary difference by volunteering for a cause that serves the Sandy Springs community.  This year, the Spirit of Sandy Springs Award was given to Nicole Nagel Gray, a third grade teacher, who like all teachers during the COVID pandemic, has gone beyond the call of all her duties, by creating “Lion Pride.”

Nicole entered the fray of “pandemic crisis management” by taking bags of food to families of students at her school. Upon knocking at one door, she found the student—a 5th grader serving as translator—and three small siblings, along with their mom who was pregnant with her fifth child. Nicole discovered that scarcity of food was not their only problem as they could pay neither their electric bill nor even their apartment rent.  After that moment thanks to Nicole, Lion Pride was born—“Emergency Assistance & Support for Families of Lake Forest Elementary School.”  This grassroots organization first connects families with charitable organizations such as the Community Assistance Center and the Solidarity Food Pantry for support.  Next, Lion Pride assists with any needs not met by local organizations, or supplements the support already in place, as necessary.

In twice-monthly zoom calls, teachers would report on the dire needs of their students—needs not met by other charities—and through a Facebook page set up by Nicole and her pride of lion teachers and friends, hundreds of dollars for food, rent, utilities, medicines and everyday necessities poured in!  By the end of 2020, over $40,000 in donations had been received, and dozens of citizens donated actual food, clothes, supplies and services.

Nicole is quick to say that these families-in-need are good, hard-working folks who just don’t have extra financial resources. Many of the parents work in the service industry—restaurants, hotels, and construction companies--and had either lost their jobs, or now had reduced hours because of the pandemic.

“Our little scrappy startup charity,” as Nicole calls Lion Pride, continues to fill students’ needs—everything from eye exams and glasses; to supplies for victims of a devastating fire; to assistance for grieving families who have lost a mom or dad. The needs are endless, and Lion Pride is indeed PROUD and grateful for every dollar that has been donated for its students.

For this amazing work, The Sandy Springs Society was honored and proud to present this year’s Spirit of Sandy Springs Award to Nicole Nagel Gray, along with a check in her honor to Lake Forest’s Lion Pride fund. 

To support Lion Pride, visit their website or Facebook Page.